Rehbar- The Rebel

Freedom fighter and a journalist cast into one
New Look The younger generation of Kashmir must be thinking that they are the only victims of Kashmir conflict but the fact of the matter is that the people of Kashmir are under subjugation from decades together. Today when youth get recognition for their sacrifices to Kashmir cause, it gives an impression that in the past no one courageous like them took birth in Kashmir, but that is not true. This land has been producing courageous sons from decades and centuries together. It is a different question that our history has been framed in a way that we see only sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s contributions but we can not forget those numerous unsung heroes who sacrificed their lives for this ill-fated nation. Among those heroes were Choudary Ghulam Abbas and Ghulam Mohiuddin Rehbar like souls who sacrificed their today for the tomorrow of nation. Ghulam Mohiuddin Rehbar was a freedom fighter who throughout his life challenged the Dogra rule and was yearning for freedom. Very few people in Kashmir can match Khawaja Ghulam Mohi-u-din Rehbar.

Rehbar’s ancestors were from Kathua in Jammu region. His paternal grandfather Gafoor-ud-Din Manhas migrated from Kathua to Srinagar and lived at Batamaloo. Late Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Rehbar was born on 4th March 1904. He received his primary education from Mission School Srinagar. Rehbar wanted to continue his studies but circumstances did not allow that and he had to seek employment at a very tender age. During Dogra rule, getting government job and that too for a Muslim was not only difficult but almost impossible. A semi-literate person like Rehbar could not even dream of applying for government job.

Maharaja Hari Singh had a band-corp called State Band which was used on special ceremonies and occasions. Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Rehbar somehow joined the Band. As Dogra rulers used to spend summers in Srinagar and winters in Jammu, so the staff also had to move with the Darbar. Maharaja’s Band unit had a few Muslims in it. Sikander Khan of Kalai Andar Srinagar, also a member of the Band, became Rehbar’s intimate companion. During their stay at Jammu, Rehbar and Sikander decided to construct a mosque; to offer Nimaz and also leave behind a memory. The head of the Band unit was an Englishman. Seeing their activities, he complained before his bosses. As such Rehbar and Sikander were expelled from services and sent to Jammu Central Jail where they languished for two years. After their release, both came back to Srinagar.

Rehbar now put his efforts in business instead of government job but for the want of experience he could not settle in any business. Frustrated, he went to Lahore. He also took Sikander along with him and both got job in British army. Serving British army for four years, they returned to Kashmir in 1927. For next two years Rehbar was jobless. In 1929, he was appointed as Drill master in Islamia High School Rajouri Kadal. It was the time when Sheikh Abdullah was a science teacher in that school.Ghulam Muhiuddin Rehbar

During his service in British army, Rehbar had purchased a camera and while working at Islamia High School, he showed it to the students, telling them it takes exact photograph of a person. Many students were wonderstruck as they had seen the camera for the first time. Some desired to be photographed and anyone who had one Anna would get himself photographed. This exercise instilled a love for photography in Rehbar who resigned from Drill mastery and went to Gopi Nath Koul for learning photography who had his photography shop at Gow Kadal.

In 1930, he took a shop on rent – Rs 6 per month – and started photography profession. When the bloodshed of 13th July 1931 happened at Central Jail Srinagar, some people came running to Rehbar and asked him to take his camera along to take photographs of people, martyred and wounded by Dogra policemen. In his brief career as a photographer, his pictures had been a living history. When he saw the heart- wrenching scenes of blood-soaked bodies and cries of the injured, Rehbar was shocked and numbed. He wanted to leave the spot but could not desist from dispensing his duty and photographed the whole blood bath. However, the scene, he witnessed, shook him and he promised to the blood- soaked martyrs that he will take the field against Dogra rule and soon revolted.

For his revolt, the court of Bhim Sen Singh awarded him three months rigorous punishment in jail and a fine of two hundred rupees. Unable to pay the fine, police took away his assets including utensils, clothes and a one- kg piece of rock salt. After his release, Rehbar took the responsibility of distributing newspapers and pamphlets. He was again arrested for six months. During Quit Kashmir movement, he was arrested for one and a half year along with Chowdhary Ghulam Abbas, Allah Rakha Sagar and Munshi Yaqoob Ali.He used to participate in secretly held meetings at the homes of Muslim Conference leaders.

1After 13 July 1931, movement became everything for him. The photographs of 1931 martyrs were published in newspapers and magazines of different states which developed an interest in Rehbar to turn to journalism. It was extremely difficult to publish a newspaper during Dogra regime. Security deposit was almost impossible for a person like Mohi-ud-Din Rehbar to pay, but he had made up his mind to bring out a newspaper which would represent freedom struggle. After great efforts he got official consent to publish “Rehbar” newspaper in 1932. His joy knew no bounds as Rehbar got fixed with Mohi-ud-Din. The newspaper and Rehbar’s role in freedom movement resulted in his frequent arrests which affected the publication of paper.

In 1932, publication of Rehbar started and in 1933 it was stalled. Similarly in 1936, 1938, 1946, 1959 and 1965 its publication was stopped. The repeated stopping of publication shattered Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Rehbar and he handed over its reigns to an old friend and writer Dina Nath Mast. An unconfirmed report says that Rehbar had purchased the newspaper from Mast and in his absence due to frequent arrests; he consigned the job of publishing newspaper to Mast.

During Muslim Conference led freedom movement, Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Rehbar was frequently jailed. His first arrest came just after bringing out Rehbar in 1932. Then in 1933 and in 1934, he was sent to Riyasi Jail. In 1948 he was put in Jammu jail. In 1959 and 1965, Srinagar Central Jail was his abode.

The 1965 Indo-Pak war changed the situation altogether. Even though Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Rehbar was attached to journalism after that, but the freedom movement had lost its momentum and Rehbar used his pen to voice his wounded sentiments. Facing hardships throughout his life, this shining star of journalism passed away on 11 January 1986. However, he had transferred his energy to his children who, through Rehbar newspaper, are carrying on his mission with zest and zeal.

(Writer is Editor, Weekly Rehbar)

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